London – Part 1

London is a place that I’ve wanted to go to ever since I was a little girl. Stefan and I were both excited to kick off our two week vacation in England’s capitol. We purchased Hop on Hop off London sightseeing tickets with the Original Tour Company to take us to all the major sites. While this worked out ok for us because it was raining off and on all day, I am not sure that this is the best value or time efficient. Traffic in London is crazy, so it would take 30 minutes to drive a few blocks. We ended up giving up on the bus tour about halfway through because we were running out of time. Honestly, if you plan to see London you can just take the Tube to see everything. The Piccadilly line will take you to most major sites.

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The first place we went to was Buckingham Palace. I wanted to see the Queen. The only person I saw was the window washer.

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We did get to see some guards, though. Since it was pouring down rain they mostly stayed in their shelters so it was a bit of a bummer. Our original plan to was to camp out and watch the changing of the guards, but the amount of people gathering and pushing and shoving wasn’t worth it, so we hopped back on the bus. The great thing about a crappy day in London (and skipping the changing of the guards) is that you get a head start on seeing the other attractions. They weren’t nearly as crowded which was a major plus!

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One of the unique things about the UK is that they have to paint which way to look for traffic on the roads. I got a real kick out of it, but it was also very helpful. Old habits die hard. I never did remember to look the correct way!

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The next place that the bus dropped us off at was around the corner from the Parliament building. I actually had no idea how big and ornate this building was. Unless you cross to the other side of the River Thames you can’t fit it all in one picture.

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Of course the next point of interest was to see Big Ben. The actual name of this clock is The Elizabeth Tower. Big Ben is actually the nickname for one of the chimes called the Great Bell. The clock rings every 15 minutes, and every hour the Great Bell rings, aka Big Ben.

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The next place we went was St. Margaret’s Church/Westminster Abbey. They are actually two separate places, but most people don’t know that. St. Margaret’s Church is pictured here, and Westminster sits directly to the right of this building. It’s £20 to enter and you can’t take photographs inside which is a bummer. It is extremely crowded inside. Did you watch the Royal Wedding a few years ago and notice all the statues and things? Well jam 2,000 tourists inside on top of that. Not fun. Not at all. We just decided not to pay to go in after peeking inside. I would have really liked to go in, but maybe if we go back we will make this the first stop so we don’t have to wait 2 hours and fight a bunch of people to see it in full.

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My next mission was to find a red phone booth. For some reason this was extremely difficult to do. We walked all over the place to find some. We finally found 2 and the line was wrapped around a building to get a picture inside of one. We decided to get lunch and then go back and I’m glad we did. We spotted these on Westminster Pier. No line! They did smell like pee a little though. If you are looking for one, walk all the way down the pier past the food vendors and you’ll see them. Basically just walk away from the tourists! After we took this picture we saw a red phone booth on literally every corner. Go figure!

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We got some food and ate overlooking the London Eye. We ate the best hamburgers I have ever had here.

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Next we boarded a cruise on the River Thames. I highly recommend this. It came included with our Hop on Hop off Bus tour, but they aren’t very expensive to begin with. It will take you down the river and you’ll see things like Shakespeare’s Globe and the Tower of London. We really enjoyed sitting on the top deck for the brief amount of time the sun was shining.

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We cruised right next to Tower Bridge. This bridge is gorgeous! Most people think this is the London Bridge, well it isn’t. London Bridge is just a boring old bridge. Don’t waste your time trying to find it, but take a walk across this bridge because it’s wonderful!

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Tower Bridge has a glass bottom walkway.

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Next stop was the Tower of London. This is where the Crown Jewels of England are kept. Of course, no photography is allowed in here either. If you can’t tell this really bugs me. If I pay to go into a place (and in London you pay a lot) I want a picture!

Then we had the bright idea to try and walk to St. Paul’s Cathedral. We got lost.

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Getting lost wasn’t the worst thing in the world. We walked down a lot of these side streets where literally we were the only people. It was nice to be away from the crowds for a little bit. It was also nice to be in an English speaking country where we could ask for directions!

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We finally made it to St. Paul’s where we paid another $30 admission fee per person and were told “NO PHOTOGRAPHY”. Well, I was fed up with that line by this point. I took a ton of pictures. I almost got caught once, but luckily my sister sent me a text at the perfect moment and the guard just thought I was texting. Thanks, Caitlin!

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So I know these aren’t great, but they will do. This church was beautiful and huge. It was the most ornate church I’d ever seen.

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Murals on the ceilings, ornate concrete work, and beautiful tile. It was pretty incredible. They had different choirs singing. They were maybe elementary age and they were SO good. I was really impressed!

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The dome was my favorite part! I wish I could show you how big the dome was. It was so high up.

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Then my insane husband decided he would climb all 500+ steps to the top of the dome. I sat that one out because I didn’t want to fall to my death. The staircase is a tiny spiraled staircase and looks terrifying. People trying to go up and down at the same time? Uh, no thanks. It did have pretty incredible views though!

13427750_10209751069475599_6041212111875491597_nWe ended our day at Harrod’s because no trip to London is complete without going there. It’s a gorgeous store. Of course we couldn’t afford 90% of the stuff in there. I had serious sticker shock, especially when I converted the pound to USD. Yikes! I did buy a Christmas ornament though to get the Harrod’s bag. I just couldn’t resist!

That pretty much sums up our first day in London. We headed back home and had our first experience on the Tube in rush hour. Note to self: avoid the tube between 4:30-8pm! We got back to the apartment we were staying in, ordered dinner and went to bed at 9 to prepare for our next day of fun in London!

London – Part 2

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